A Loner’s Guide to a Big City

In I heard... on March 24, 2011 at 8:01 am

Do you enjoy being a bit of a loser sorry, loner in a big city? (Totally kidding about the loser thing, couldn’t resist). Does getting lost in an unknown neighborhood (even when it’s not your intention) excite you? Quietly spying on the local hustle & bustle, discovering things no average tour guide could ever tell you, taking a detour off the beaten path– if this is more your pace when it comes to getting to know a city, MessyNessy would like to highly recommend her latest discovery– Soundwalk.

If I told you that it was possible to go from being a loner to a local in one hour, is that something that might interest you?

Soundwalk is a New York Based company that made it’s name producing cutting-edge audio guides, mixing fiction and reality to provide an exclusive and poetic discovery of a city.

I’m going to focus on the Paris edition, partly because it’s where I’m loving and living at the moment and also because it just so happens, the entire Parisian Soundwalk series is on offer to download until the end of the week, ab-so-lute-ly free. And quite frankly, it’s the best gift I’ve been offered in quite a while…

Imagine the thick and silky voice of French actress, Virginie Ledoyen (pictured above) guiding you through her local neighbourhood. She strolls the streets aimlessly at first, but then finds herself captivated by the aura of a young man. She follows him curiously without worry of where it will lead her– and so do you (via several breathtaking hidden courtywards).

Let me explain…

There are five seperate, hour-long Soundwalks (recordings) for five vibrant neighborhoods in Paris which are downloadable in mp3 format (English and French versions), ready to transfer to your iPod/iPhone or mp3 player. Each Soundwalk is narrated by various well-known French actors/ musicians/ artists who know the ins and outs of their neighborhoods, or as one Parisian narrator, Florence Loiret Caille calls it– her ‘Q.G.’ (short for ‘quartier général’, translation: her ‘local hood’, pronounced ‘koo-jai’). The download packages also come with a map that routes your narrated walk, marking a starting point where you are to ‘meet’ your narrator and noting the optimal hours, days or even seasons for your Soundwalk. These are no average tour guides…

Belleville with Florence Loiret Caille

Florence is an up and coming actress who takes you under her wing in Edith Piaf’s old Parisian neighbourhood, Belleville. It’s one of the most eclectic and diverse in Paris and your narrator will plunge you head first into her helter skelter ‘QG’, starting at the café Charbon, her morning haunt. She tells you about the regular patrons that are likely to be sitting around you if indeed you begin your tour in the morning, as suggested with the Belleville Soundwalk. “Seated at the little table, near the window, do you see?” she asks in her seductive French accent, “that’s Guillaume. He’s an architect who is more of a philosopher actually and spends his time reading and taking notes…And then there’s Alain. The photographer. The tall blonde guy who goes from table to table, doing his thing,” she giggles playfully as if she has some kind of naughty history with Alain, “He knows everyone here.” As you finish your coffee, Florence tells you she’s just been dumped by her true love. You’ll set out along the cobblestones, passing corner shops and bars which she takes you inside and remembers moments she spent with her musician lover there, revealing little anecdotes of local Parisian knowledge all the while.

You’ll visit the Chinese markets, the Tunisian-Jewish cafés, the Arabic pastry shops and meet storekeepers, musicians and artists that make it all so lively. It’s truly a cinematic experience which plunges you into an environment with no borders, where love and desperation is understood by all.

I’m probably not supposed to do this, but I’ve uploaded the Belleville walk here on the blog for you to listen to and get an idea of what the heck I’m really talking about. Remember it’s free anyway this week so if you like what you hear, just head to the website and download all five Soundwalks. In the meantime, get a feel for what a Soundwalk might be like and click the link below.

Click here to listen : BELLEVILLE Soundwalk hosted by Florence Loiret-Caille

What a way to discover a neighborhood hey!

St. Germain-des-Pres with Virginie Ledoyen

As I mentioned, Virginie Ledoyen (who you might remember as the French beauty that starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach) is one of the Paris Soundwalk narrators. As she follows the young man, Benjamin Bolay (who is actually the musician who composed the music for the Saint-Germain Soundwalk), Virginie helps you lose yourself in the stardust neighbourhood through the Rue de Baci, Rue de Savoie, Rue des Beaux Arts in local galleries and old booksellers. While she attempts to understand her fascination with strangers, the rush she gets in following and observing men, you are seeing Saint Germain in a whole new light.

Pigalle with Lou Doillon

Yup, that’s the lustful neighborhood of Pigalle with none other than MessyNessy’s Girl Crush du Jour, Lou Doillon. This one is not for the prudish– prepare for an erotic journey through the night as Doillon’s sultry voice leads you on, teasing and flirting. As you explore the underground bars, fetish nightclubs and old cabarets, you must be willing to let go of your inhibitions as you explore the Parisian “red light district”. Lou dares you to flirt with prostitutes and experiment with your darkest desires.

Take a look at this promo video for the Pigalle Soundwalk (I could only find the French version with English subtitles)

I’m going to let you discover the last two Soundwalks in the Marais and the Palais Royale on your own as I don’t want to give too much away….

Enjoy getting lost in Paris and walking with your very special local guides.

Click here to download the Paris Soundwalks for free

Soundwalk is also giving away the complete New York soundwalk series for free this week (fourteen tours)

And finally, what kind of world would we live in if there wasn’t a Soundwalk iPhone app. This probably has a few extra features (the convenience of not having to upload from computer to phone, having the maps at your fingertips etc), however the iPhone app is not on offer for free this week.

Happy walking MessyNessy readers!







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